The “Drone Click” Button

February 2014
By Bryan Bergeron

Civilian drones crisscrossing the skies, delivering packages from Amazon — perhaps with a “drone click” button added to their “one click” option — seems inevitable. The first crucial step was taken on December 30, 2012, when the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) identified the five states that would host research into civilian drone use: Alaska, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Virginia. Alaska and Nevada seem like no-brainers, given the open space and military drone testing already well established in these states.

Texas, Virginia, and New York, on the other hand, will no doubt provide some interesting data points. Sure, there will be farmers in Virginia using drones to survey their crops and perhaps even perform some surgical crop dusting — all without exposing the remote pilot to toxic weed killer. Then, there’s the prospect for package delivery to hospitals, businesses, and perhaps even individual consumers. (Maybe I should look into patenting that “drone click” button before Amazon has a crack at it?)

In populated cities, I can see the utility in flying, say, a kidney for transplant from one regional hospital to another via drone. Helicopter pilots may not be keen on being replaced by a cheaper alternative that can be flown by computer or someone kicking back in an Aeron chair working a joystick. For the rest of us, there’s value in moving objects from place to place as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Perhaps there’s even a place for those helicopter pilots among the ranks of drone pilots.

There is a potential downside, of course. I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that the sky is filled with surveillance drones, piloted by someone in my local police department. Perhaps it’s irrational — I know that the NSA and other government agencies have satellites that monitor much of the US. It’s one thing to be one of a few million and another to be tracked by a drone that’s flown (or at least monitored) by local police or even a local business. Do you want a local contractor to email you, for example, with an offer to fix your roof based on surveillance footage collected by a drone? Or, your employer to know, for example, that you weren’t actually home sick but at the beach enjoying the sun?

Clearly, there are issues to be resolved. Some will involve laws and lawmakers. Some will involve money and economics. Clearly, a prerequisite is that the tests in these five cities prove the worth of drones and the information they can collect. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for that “drone click” button now … SV

Posted by Michael Kaudze on 01/22 at 02:06 PM


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